Although it was back in the Winter, I’ve wanted to do a post on one of the most amazing dining experiences I’ve ever had. Because it was exactly that, not just a fancy meal, but an all out, no-holds-barred experience that I feel lucky to have been invited to.
My boyfriend Olivier managed to score 2 tickets to visionary chef Grant Achatz’s restaurant Next. The thing that makes Next so unique, aside from its insanely inspired food, is that it is redone every 3 months to become a completely different restaurant. New theme, new menu, new decor, everything. And considering we were given 2 tickets (sold online only) in a restaurant that seats 62 people a night and had 6,000+ on the waiting list at the time, scored is an understatement. So, always having wanted to go to Chicago, we booked flights and a night at The James hotel, and away we went. Below are some highlights outside of dinner at Next in our 30 hour stint in the windy city.
Standing in a glass box with a glass floor 103 stories up @ the Willis Tower
A cool boombox display in the window of the Museum of Radio & TV
Olivier in the painted trees
Morbid Curiosity exhibit @ the Cultural Center. I shortly after got into trouble for taking photos…
Loved this wall @ lunch @ Topolobampo
The Gordita Inflada @ Topolobampo
Photographers @ dusk @ Millenium Park
Olivier & The Bean!
Chicago you were awesome!
Along with the tickets at Next, we were booked a reservation atAviary, the cocktail bar next door. The bartenders are trained as chefs here, producing cocktails with an emphasis on food, being produce, spices, herbs, etc. Not only were the cocktails creative, original, and delicious, but the presentation of each one was beautiful. After cocktails, we were escorted through a curtained doorway into Next. I felt like we were entering Alice’s Wonderland of the food world.
I’m not going to get into the exacts of the food, it would take me forever considering there were 28 (!) courses. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do it, and hit a lull around course 20, but I did all of it. Not to worry, most were just a bite, or foam, or ice. It was like the greatest hits of El Bulli. Most of it I loved, and a few I didn’t. But I can say that I was never bored, was constantly inspired, and enjoyed every single minute of it. I can also say that the option of the mixed pairing which included sake, wine, beer, & sherry was an awesome alternative to the traditional wine pairing, although it made for a wicked case of the giggles around course 16 or so. It felt more like going to a dinner theater than a restaurant, all the way from the service, the food, the catalogued menu, the tour of the kitchen, and even being given our expo ticket (which tracked our service individually down to the minute from the time we sat down.) Would I fly to another state for 1 night for a dinner again? If it was anything like my experiences at Next, absolutely.
Here are some highlights:
The Ginger @ Aviary. Ginger Ice, shiso, mint, fresno chilies, served with a vodka back & lemongrass swizzle.
El Bulli’s infamous spherical olives
Carrot “air” with coconut milk
Nasturtium with eel, marrow & cucumber
The Gorgonzola balloon
Tincture for my Cava during tapas
To be honest, Can’t remember what this was, but I remember I loved it.
Where the giggles came from…
The welcome note, spanish side of the menu & our expo ticket. We were told 1 green stripe is important, 2 green stripes is very VIP, fancy!